UCL News


7 strategies for stamina: making your 2016 New Year's resolutions last

14 January 2016

As 2016 dawns and the new term has begun, many students are reflecting on their New Year's resolutions and how to make this year better than 2015.

7 strategies for stamina  

From lifestyle changes, such as eating more healthily and exercising, to study-related goals like planning essays earlier, revising in advance, and attending all classes, it can be motivating to set fresh objectives for a new year. However, how likely are you to put them into practice?

Research in 2002 showed that about 75% of people stick to their goals for at least a week, but that after six months less than 50% are still sticking to the original plan. Another study from America showed that less than 10% keep their resolutions in the longer term. 

So, given that it is a real challenge to keep to our resolutions, what could help? One study from the University of Hertfordshire tracked 5,000 people's New Year's resolutions and found that people were more likely to succeed if they have a clear plan. Below are seven tips to make this year's resolutions more likely to last:

1. Smarten up your resolutions. If we want to change something in our lives, we need to be able to measure the progress. Break your goals into steps that are SMART, which stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-limited. For example, rather than having a goal like 'getting fit', a SMARTER more measurable goal would be 'to go for a 15-minute jog twice a week in the park up until February'.

2. Select just a couple of key areas to address rather than too many. It will be simpler and more realistic to direct your focus on making progress, while also getting on with other aspects of your life, such as studying and having fun.

3. Schedule when the changes will happen. It is often the case that people have great ideas but don't manage to fit them into their weekly routine. By prioritising your resolution by putting it in your diary, it will make it more likely to happen.

4. See your resolutions each day by writing them down and pinning them up. It can be motivating to see your goals on paper and add notes to track your progress.

5. Share your resolutions. If you tell friends or family about your plans, you may get support and encouragement along the way. They may even join you! Or if you have different resolutions, you could arrange to motivate each other via text or email.

6. Support yourself along the way. A key barrier to changing habits happens when we criticise ourselves for setbacks, as this makes us feel demotivated and less confident. Ups and downs are inevitable, so we need self-compassion to keep going.

7. Stamina. Keep going - it takes time to change habits and it is totally natural to slip back into old habits after the initial motivation has waned. Keeping to resolutions is more like a marathon than a sprint, so endurance and patience are needed to stay on track.

Wishing you a fantastic 2016 and good luck!

Dr Kate Joseph
Student Psychological Services